Sunday, Jul 20, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
The initiative is significant as it comes close on the heels of the veteran Congress leader, K. Karunakaran's closed-door meeting with the IUML supremo, Panakkad Sayyed Mohammedali Sihab Thangal. Mr. Karunakaran's overtures to the IUML from an anti-BJP and pro-minority plank has triggered a panic of sorts among the anti-Karunakaran sections in the Congress and the current attempt, according to Congress circles, is to prevent Mr. Karunakaran from getting political leverage.
The IUML leadership appears to be in a dilemma. The party has dropped enough hints that it does not intend to unseat Mr. Antony. At the same time, it is under considerable pressure from its rank and file to take extreme positions if only to reassert its place in the UDF. At a different level, the party is also looking for a formula which would enable it to tackle the extreme elements in the community and the party and retain them in mainstream politics.
Senior IUML leaders say that the matter could be resolved if Mr. Antony talked to Mr. Thangal directly, but till late this evening that seemed unlikely.
Mr. Antony refused to comment. IUML leaders are also in touch with other UDF leaders, including the Kerala Congress(M) leader, K.M. Mani.
Mr. Mani too held discussions with Mr. Thangal on Friday evening. Today, the Kerala Congress(M)'s steering committee meeting authorised Mr. Mani and party chairman, C.F. Thomas, to take an "appropriate decision" and decide on the future course of action. The cryptic statement not withstanding, the party leaders indicated that they were in no mood to unseat Mr. Antony and go along with the IUML if that party were to take an extreme stand.
News reports that Mr. Karunakaran's faction had demanded a postponement of the vote on the appropriation bill to be taken up by the Assembly on Monday prompted the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, M.M. Hassan to issue a whip to UDF MLAs, barring the IUML members, to be present for the vote on Monday.
The IUML MLAs have been exempted because they have to be present for the working committee meeting in Kozhikode on Monday.
Mr. Hassan told presspersons that it was not possible to postpone the Assembly debate and the vote on the appropriation bill because it had been approved by the House.
The Karunakaran faction had not demanded in writing a postponement of the Assembly debate though the Congress chief whip, P.P. George, a Karunakaran supporter, had suggested such a move.
Mr. Karunakaran was also in the spotlight today when he attacked the Chief Minister for his remarks on majority-minority equations. He said he would wait till the IUML's decision on Monday before deciding his course of action.
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